Nutrient pollution enhances productivity and framework dissolution in algae- but not in coral-dominated reef communities

by Florian Roth, Yusuf C.El-Khaled, Denis B.Karcher, Nils Rädecker, Susana Carvalho, Carlos M. Duarte, Luis Silva, Maria Ll. Calleja, Xosé Anxelu G.Morán, Burton H. Johns, Christian R Voolstra, Christian Wild
Research article Year: 2021 DOI:


Roth, F., El-Khaled, Y. C., Karcher, D. B., Rädecker, N., Carvalho, S., Duarte, C. M., ... & Wild, C. (2021). Nutrient pollution enhances productivity and framework dissolution in algae-but not in coral-dominated reef communities. Marine Pollution Bulletin168, 112444.


Ecosystem services provided by coral reefs may be susceptible to the combined effects of benthic species shifts and anthropogenic nutrient pollution, but related field studies are scarce. We thus investigated in situ how dissolved inorganic nutrient enrichment, maintained for two months, affected community-wide biogeochemical functions of intact coral- and degraded algae-dominated reef patches in the central Red Sea. Results from benthic chamber incubations revealed 87% increased gross productivity and a shift from net calcification to dissolution in algae-dominated communities after nutrient enrichment, but the same processes were unaffected by nutrients in neighboring coral communities. Both community types changed from net dissolved organic nitrogen sinks to sources, but the increase in net release was 56% higher in algae-dominated communities. Nutrient pollution may, thus, amplify the effects of community shifts on key ecosystem services of coral reefs, possibly leading to a loss of structurally complex habitats with carbonate dissolution and altered nutrient recycling.


Eutrophication Ecosystem functioning Carbon and nitrogen cycles Erosion Phase-shifts Nutrient enrichment